CARIBU, Maine — A massive new entertainment venue in Caribou is resurrecting a popular restaurant and bowling alley from the former Loring Air Force Base.
Evergreen Lanes and Rendezvous Restaurant opened last Tuesday at 60 Access Highway with 12 bowling lanes, a bar and restaurant and the largest television in Maine, said developer Sean Pelletier.
At 35,000 square feet, it is the largest restaurant and event space in Caribou. He also resurrected 10-pin bowling in northern Maine, which disappeared in 1994 when Loring closed.
Pelletier works with Hilda Quinones and her son Justin Quinones at the bowling alley. Hilda Quinones knew Pelletier had bought the building on Access Highway and reached out. A conversation with Wayne Langley, the last owner of the original Rendezvous restaurant in Limestone, inspired Pelletier to add a restaurant.
Born in Limestone, Pelletier had fond memories of the restaurant and Evergreen Lanes.
“My family wasn’t in the military, but many of the military’s children went to school in Limestone. Evergreen was where we hung out,” Pelletier said. “The Rendezvous has been around since the 1950s and has always been popular with the military. People will tell you it has the best pizza they’ve ever had.
Even after the base closed, people continued to come to Rendezvo, Langley said. It uses the same secret recipes passed down from the original owner, Edmund Owen.
Last fall, Langley sold Pelletier’s recipes, closed the Limestone restaurant and agreed to train Rendezvous’ new kitchen staff.
Pelletier owns condos and has also invested in Northern Maine Brewing Company and Hilltop Heights Senior Living in Caribou.
The Evergreen/Rendezvous project has been in development for two years. Supply chain issues have delayed the opening several times since July. Pelletier delayed the opening until late October, then early December, and contractors finished in early January. Pelletier held several soft openings before the official opening on January 24.
The original estimated cost was $4.7 million, but increased shipping and equipment purchase costs pushed up the final price, which Pelletier declined to specify.
Evergreen is Pelletier’s second investment, along with Hilltop Heights, to benefit from Caribou’s tax increment financing program.
People will be invited to watch sporting events on the Rendezvous’ massive 9-by-16-foot television.
The business also features a pro bowling shop, arcade, private meeting and event space, and a 40-by-50-inch outdoor patio. The dining and sports bar area has 250 seats.
Hilda and Justin Quinones work in the pro shop and help with the bowling alley.
The new Rendezvous literally has a piece of the past: the restaurant’s updated neon sign from the 1950s shines above the front entrance.
Langley has spent 50 years in the restaurant business and is happy to help keep the Rendezvous spirit alive, he said. The menu offers the most original items, such as the famous local pizza, meatball grinders, spaghetti, roast beef, burgers and appetizers.\
“The Rendezvous has always been a family place, and we still want it to be a place for families,” Langley said. “It’s a sports bar, a bowling alley and an entertainment venue. It’s the same vibe of Rendezvous, but much more than I ever thought it could be.”
The place has only been open for a week, but already hundreds have visited from the area and beyond Aroostook, Pelletier said.
Snowmobiles Jessica Libby, Tim York and Sarah Farnham, all of Mapleton, stopped at the Rendezvous Bar on Friday. All three said they would return with their family and friends.
“It’s a great atmosphere here,” Libby said. “I think it will bring a lot of people to the area.”
That’s exactly what Langley and Pelletier want to see.
Evergreen Lanes will begin offering community bowling leagues this fall. As a member of the United States Bowling Congress, Evergreen would eventually host state league championships, drawing players and spectators from across the country.
Attracting more people to Caribou will become even more important as the town looks to be a more sought-after destination for outdoor recreation and entertainment, Pelletier said.
“We want it to be a destination, something unique to the area that will attract people, the same way we can go to Bangor or Portland to visit certain places,” Pelletier said.